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Obama's Labor Department Refuses To Say If It's Protecting Trans Workers

"[W]e have nothing new on this," a senior advisor says.

Posted on January 31, 2014, at 5:15 p.m. ET

Molly Riley, File / AP

WASHINGTON — A senior adviser to Labor Secretary Tom Perez refused Friday to answer a longstanding question about whether the department is protecting transgender employees of federal contractors from discrimination.

In April 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that Title VII's sex discrimination ban includes gender identity-based discrimination against transgender people. Under the policies of the Labor Department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), it was expected that office would enforce an executive order that bans federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sex, among other factors, to include a ban on gender identity-based discrimination.

For the past 20 months, however, Labor Department officials — including former Secretary Hilda Solis and OFCCP Director Patricia Shiu — have refused to say whether the department is including transgender workers in its enforcement of the existing executive order.

On Friday, Labor Department spokesman Carl Fillichio told BuzzFeed that Perez would not speak with BuzzFeed about a series of questions relating to LGBT rights, including a question about Executive Order 11246, at this time. Asked if the department would instead provide answers in writing to the questions, previously submitted to Fillichio, he responded Friday afternoon, "Thanks. [W]ill decline that too, as we have nothing new on this."

Beginning on May 4, 2012, Metro Weekly reported:

Since April 27, Metro Weekly has been asking the Department of Labor to detail the implications for OFCCP of the Apr. 20 EEOC decision and has not received any information from Labor as of this report.

In July 2012, BuzzFeed reported:

Further conversations with Labor Department officials ... resulted in no response as to whether the federal contract compliance office was, for example, advising federal contractors — like the three major contractors awarded new contracts recently — that they could be violating Executive Order 11246 if they discriminate against an employee based on gender identity, which would be the case if the executive order is interpreted in alignment with the EEOC's ruling in [Mia] Macy's case.

More than a year later, a month after Perez took over as secretary of the Labor Department, BuzzFeed reported in August 2013:

The Labor Department, however, has issued no public guidance about the issue, and officials have refused repeated requests for comment on the issue. ... As recently as Tuesday afternoon, however, Labor Department representatives could not immediately provide an answer about whether its enforcement of the executive order includes anti-transgender discrimination and did not respond with an answer, as a spokesman said would be provided. ... As recently as last week, though, a department spokeswoman, Laura McGinnis, told BuzzFeed, "I don't have anything on that, I'm afraid, but I'll let you know if anything changes."

Most recently, in December 2013, BuzzFeed reported:

Patricia Shiu, the director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, would not say Wednesday whether her office includes transgender workers in its enforcement of Executive Order 11246, which bans federal contractors from discriminating in employment.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.